Italian coast guard, navy rescue hundreds of migrants

Migrants walk aboard the Italian navy ship Scirocco during a rescue operation about 40 nautical miles off the coast of Libya in this handout picture released on June 14, 2014 by the Italian Marina Militare.
The Italian coast guard says it has rescued nearly 300 Syrian migrants from a fishing boat adrift in the Mediterranean Sea.

The 281 men, women and children were rescued from their vessel Saturday.
Officials say some of the Syrians are in poor health.
Italy began stepping up patrols for migrants last year after a boat filled with asylum seekers sank near Lampedusa, killing at least 359 people.
Italy is a main gateway to Europe for Middle Eastern and  African migrants seeking to escape war, poverty and political turmoil. The country has been reeling from the large influx of migrants who have arrived this year.
Earlier this month, the International Organization of Migration said more than 40,000 migrants had risked crossing the Mediterranean during the first five months of 2014 – close to the total number for all of 2013.
Italy has been demanding that the European Union do more to help police Mediterranean waters.
Source – VOA and agencies
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